Wellness Posts

Time Together—Too Much or Too Little?

   By: Rev. Dr. Ronald Lehenbauer, LMFT, LCC Pastoral Counselor

Never Enough Time
In our hectic modern times many couples and families have difficulty finding enough time to spend together.  Work and school and schedules keep us so busy, we have to be very intentional about scheduling time for connection with family and spouses and our close relationships.  

Then, Too Much Time
Or perhaps in this past year we’ve encountered the opposite problem – too much time together.  The pandemic has isolated us in our homes – many even working from home – and perhaps some couples and families feel like they’re seeing too much of each other.  

What About the Quality?
Whether it’s too much or too little time together, perhaps the more important question is about the quality of the time we spend together.  When we’re together, how do we connect with each other?  What activities do we enjoy together?  How do we talk and what do we talk about?  How do we handle disagreements?  When arguments break out, how do we repair what’s broken in our relationships?  (I’ve created a poster I often share with couples and families in counseling: “Disagreement is inevitable. Hostility is optional.”)  

Getting the Right Balance
When people live together in the same dwelling, each person needs a balance of “alone-time” and “together-time.”  And that balance may vary from individual to individual.  But the quality of the “together-time” is essential for intimate and happy relationships.  

Schedule, Plan, Be Intentional
Spontaneity, play and fun make for happy and close relationships.  But those kind of connections don’t always happen spontaneously – without planning.  Often we need to be intentional about scheduling, planning and prioritizing activities, conversations and good times together.  And we need to be intentional about how we talk to each other, how we settle differences, how we self-regulate our own difficult emotions.  (As a pastoral counselor, I spend a lot of time with couples helping them learn a new way to talk to each other and handle their disagreements.  And I help them learn some mindful ways of self-regulating.) 

Paying Attention to the Spiritual
Close relationships in marriages and families are also strengthened and enhanced by spending quality time together with God.  Sharing the Bible together.  Praying together.  Singing together.  Worshiping together.  Communing together.  Connecting with God together.  

A New Kind of Shared Account
You might think of your close relationships this way: Couples and families share a “joint EMOTIONAL bank account” with each other.  You always want to keep a high balance in that joint account.  If you do, your relationships will move along fairly smoothly and enjoyably, and you’ll be able to fairly easily solve any problems that arise.  But if the balance is low, there will probably be a lot of anxiety and difficult moments in the relationships.  You don’t want to get overdrawn.  

Deposits to the Account
The key is to make a lot of deposits into that joint account to keep the balance high.  What kind of deposits?  Fun and enjoyable times together.  Useful and happy and intimate conversations and dialogues.  Giving frequent appreciations to each other.  Connecting with God together.  Working on joint projects.  Solving problems together.  (And add your own thoughts and ideas here.  What deposits can you make? )  You’re a gift from God to each other.  

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Dr. Lehenbauer, a certified Imago Relationship Counselor, counsels adults and couples.  For an appointment with any of our counselors or for more information, call LCC at 1-800-317-1173. For safety, all sessions are currently provided using a secure, HIPAA compliant virtual video and/or audio platform.

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